Fort Wayne mayor sends back ‘pay-to-play’ measure

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry sent the so-called “pay-to-play”, ordinance designed to add transparency to contractors and the donations they make to elected officials, back to City Council amid legal concerns.

In a letter Thursday, Henry wrote that he supported making the campaign donation process more transparent but said the ordinance passed by City Council 6-2 last week was “flawed in several specific areas” and was perhaps unconstitutional.

On November 28, the council passed 6-2 a measure by Councilmen Jason Arp and John Crawford, both Republicans, crafted under the belief that some city contractors are favored because they contributed thousands of dollars to the Democrat Henry’s mayoral campaigns.

READ | Mayor Henry letter

As passed by City Council, the ordinance called for any key employer of a company that donates more than $2,000 in one year to any municipal campaign in Fort Wayne to be prohibited from biding for city government contracts. A key employer is someone who has at least 7.5 percent ownership of a company.

The Indiana Policy Review found that almost two-thirds of Henry’s 2015 campaign dollars are from city vendors.

Henry on Thursday, though, said that “there is no question from a philosophical and ideological view this issue needs to be address.”

He added, however, that the ordinance was perhaps in violation of the state’s Home Rule Act, which says local governments have no regulatory power over campaign finance, and not permissible by state law because local governments cannot regulate conduct assigned by the state. He also questioned if it is in violation of the free speech amendment of the United State Constitution.

“What we’re doing does not impair anyone’s ability to free speech, you can give as much money as you want,” Co-author of the ordinance, Councilman Jason Arp, said. “All we’re doing is changing how the City of Fort Wayne handles contracting.”

City Council can consider a re-worked ordinance or override Henry’s request “and possibly subject our City to legal action,” the mayor wrote in the letter. The Council would need six votes for an override.

Councilman John Crawford also helped write the ordinance. He said a lot of people have been asking him to run for mayor, but he has not made a decision if he will or not. However, he did give his philosophy about fundraising if he were to run.

“If I were ever to run for Mayor I wouldn’t accept more than $2,000 from any firm competing for city contracts because I wouldn’t even want it to be a question,” he said.